Experiencing the holidays in New York City is magical and uniquely special. New York City does not hold back when it comes to celebrating the holidays – it puts on a show! If New York City wasn’t already buzzing with life and activities, Christmas time adds an extra layer of magic and fun that can soften even the hardened heart of any New Yorker. There is something about the energy of the concrete jungle combined with the spirit of the holidays that make the experience unique. There is Christmas everywhere you turn. The bustling metropolis is transformed into a festive winter wonderland adorned with glittering lights and holiday sounds in the way only New York City can.
There is a lot of different holiday events and places to check out all throughout the city during this time of year. But if you’re visiting and are here for a limited time, here are my top 5 iconic places to see and experience in New York City during the holidays.
Bryant Park Winter Village
Bryant Park is transformed into a festive holiday destination lined with artisan and specialty shops and food vendors, centered around a 17,000-square-foot ice skating rink. The Winter Village even has it’s own Christmas tree and tree lighting ceremony featuring a live performance by Olympic and World Champion skaters.
Admission to skate is free, so if you have your own skates you’re in luck! Skate rental is 20$. Enjoy hot cocoa in between skating laps and ice cleanings.
There are many events by Bryant Park Winter Village throughout the holiday season. Visit their website HERE for details and updated information including pricing and hours of operation.
Macy’s Herald Square
Macy’s Herald Square is a New York City icon on its own and during the holidays, the entire store is transformed to celebrate the season. Before going inside, you can view Macy’s holiday windows featuring themed holiday displays. On the 8th floor, you’ll find Macy’s Santaland, and just like in the classic holiday movie “Miracle on 34th Street”, kids can meet Santa. However, in true New York City fashion, you have to make a reservation to visit Santa.
Macy’s Herald Square is the world’s largest department store, covering an entire city block. The Herald Square area surrounding Macy’s and 34th Street is lined with many popular retail stores making it a great spot to finish all of your holiday shopping.
This iconic residential neighborhood in Brooklyn is known for its extravagant holiday decorations. Describing it extravagant is putting it lightly. Each year, the community of homes in Dyker Heights get overly decked in Christmas decorations that can rival even the most elaborate decorations in the city! Make sure you have good walking shoes and bundle up before trecking out. Grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa while walking around.
The best lights are on 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue and from 83rd to 86th Street.
There are guided tours available but you can certainly roam on your own.
Wollman Rink, Central Park, and 5th Ave Shopping
Wollman Rink in Central Park is another one of those iconic New York City locations that feel even more special because of the holiday season. Located southeast Central Park, it is a nice short stroll from the 5th Avenue and 59th Street entrance. It feels secluded, you are skating surrounded by the trees and the city’s towering skyscrapers. There is a snack bar offering hot chocolate and small bites, perfect while waiting for the Zamboni to clean the ice.
For more information, rates, and hours of operation check out their WEBSITE. It can get crowded at times. However, they now offer VIP reservations to skip lines.
After skating, walk down 5th Avenue and visit the many high-end stores, even if it just to window shop. Practically all the retail stores on 5th Avenue is dressed up for the holidays with dazzling decorations and holiday window displays.
From there you’ll end up at the last spot on this list…
Rockefeller Center and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Of course, you can’t forget to visit Rockefeller Center and take pictures in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree! The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is the beacon of the holidays in New York City. You can watch people ice skate at The Rink At Rockefeller Center overlooked by the golden sculpture of Prometheus. The entire plaza is dressed up in lights and decorations.
Don’t forget to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show directly right on 5th Avenue as well as view their famous Christmas window displays. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also in the immediate area and is worth a visit.
BONUS: Rolf’s Bar
It is always Christmas time at Rolf’s Bar all year around! Rolf’s Bar is German restaurant and bar known to have elaborate holiday decorations up the entire year! As in any highly Instagram-able spot, this place gets really packed, especially during the holidays. Wait times for table service could be a while. However, access to the bar is far easier here and your best bet to get inside and view the spot’s sophisticated decorations.
There you have it, my top 5 iconic places to see and experience in New York City during the holidays 🎄. If you are visiting during this season, you must put these in high priority. Visiting these places will surely put you into the spirit of the holiday season. No other city does the holidays like New York City!
Cover Image Credit: Flickr/Anthony Quintano